Friday, July 6, 2012

Don't Get SMART With Me


I just haven't been reading lately. It's the sort of thing I get to feeling guilty about. Like not writing or not running, like eating junk or watching bad television, like buying things I don't need and failing to enjoy what I have. But in this case it's that I just haven't been picking up a book of late. So it goes.

It's hot here. Seems like it's hot everywhere. Tonight, near a fan, I might relax with a glass of ice coffee and a book. I have two good ones sitting on the shelf, borrowed from the library. I have three books of poetry waiting for me. I have all sorts of things to read and no shortage of interest. It's just not a time that I've been reaching for a book.

Were there other signs, I would worry that this is depression. But my weight is pretty much the same. I'm running regularly, maybe more than usual. I'm spending time with family and enjoying it. I have been keeping in touch with friends. I've even taken on the adventure of fixing my laptop and covered the responsibility of getting my car fixed. So this is something else. It's a reading slump.

I wonder what I'm doing instead of reading. There has been some television in there but it has all been on DVD and so I can live with that. No commercials, no problems. I know that I'm following things on Twitter more closely than I have in a while and that isn't always a good sign. Tonight, after I finish writing and posting this, I'll take an electronics break. I'm also not sleeping great, but a lot of that is due to the heatwave.

Still, checking in like this is a good thing and I'm learning that I don't have to spend my energy judging the situation so much as examining it. I'm not an idiot for not reading. I'm not bad. I'm not failing. I'm just not reading. I love to read. It's a huge part of my life, usually. So I'm okay. I'm not in trouble. I'm just not the usual and that's worth examining.

Examination is something I have misunderstood for most of my life. I'm good at comparison. I'm great at self-deprecation and, oddly enough, pretty boastful at the same time. Examination is useful in ways that those things aren't. By looking at my life almost scientifically I can learn a lot about what is happening.

Change might come from that, but change isn't the goal. I'm learning that too. When I examine myself in order to change, I go into the examination biased. The data comes out all screwy and I blow both the examination and the change.

At the school system where I work, as at many schools and corporations, there is a big push for something called SMART goals. These are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. All that made sense to me when I first heard about it. I set SMART goals for both my professional and personal life. And then I failed to make any changes or reach those goals.

So much for SMART.

The problem for me with this kind of thinking is that it skips over the examination. If I was working on SMART goals when it comes to reading, things would look like this: I'm not reading lately. That's bad. Fix it! I'll read three books this month and start immediately.

In many ways, that sounds great. The problem is that it makes not reading into a problem without any proof that it is. Maybe my brain is abuzz with other things right now and needs room. Maybe I don't have the right book. Maybe my eyes hurt. I don't know because with the SMART goal, I glossed over the situation and named it a problem.

So I'm tossing goals for right now. Except maybe one. My goal is to examine things closely and without judgment. At least five times in writing this essay I have had to backspace over those judgments, the habit being so ingrained. I like that I'm aware of the situation (not the problem) and I'm okay that I don't have a goal for fixing it. After all, I don't know if anything is broken.

I'm just about done now and here's an intriguing thing: I want to go read Scott Jurek's new book Eat and Run. I have it on the shelf. It's waiting there for me. I've got some time and the desire. I have no goal, but who needs one. Other than this: to write on.